How to Avoid Back Surgery
By Chuck Schulte, PT
According to the Washington Post, spinal fusion surgeries increased from 56,000 in 1994 to 465,000 in 2011. That is an 8 times increase in the rate of back surgery in 7 years! In Europe and other countries, back surgery rates are more than 4 times lower than those rates in the U.S. Why the difference?
The Washington Post surveyed 125,000 patient charts in 2013 and found the vast majority of people were having surgery, before trying more appropriate conservative measures, especially physical therapy. Physical therapy is far less costly than spinal fusion surgeries, which can typically cost more than $80,000, while the average therapy treatments for 4 weeks runs $1100.
What you can do to help your back?
Most back pain is mechanical back pain, which is the term used to describe the abnormal movement, or lack of movement in certain parts of the spine. This happens due to poor posture, lifting injuries, accidents and wear of the joints in the spine. The vast majority of people suffering from mechanical low back pain, can have significant improvement, and in most cases, complete relief.
Simply do the following to eliminate your back pain:
- Improve your spinal joint mobility
- Improve your spinal, pelvic and leg strength (core muscle groups)
- Improve your spinal muscle coordination
- Improve your balance and proprioception (your body’s ability to know where it is in space)
- Improve your health (no smoking, proper nutrition, manage your weight and hydration)
Why pain pills make back pain worse
Many people take over the counter medication, such as Advil or Tylenol to get through their day with back pain. Millions of people nationwide take stronger prescription pain medicine, which has strong side effects. However, what most people do not understand is that pain pills only mask the pain; they don’t fix the underlying mechanical problem. It’s like turning the radio up in your car to drown out the squeaking noise from a bad car part that needs fixing.
With pain medication many people actually have worsening pain over time, because their mechanical problem gets worse. In fact, it is very common to increase injury to the spine, because you do not feel the pain. Pain is your body’s natural way of telling you to stop stressing the area.
What to do to relieve back pain
- See a specialist physical therapist, ideally one that does hands on therapy and has a spine program, like the back specialists at Diamond Physical Therapy.
- Work with your doctor and physical therapist to restore your normal spinal motion, strength, coordination and balance.
- Follow the recommendations after your pain is better to maintain a healthy spine.
- Improve your workstations and home ergonomics to protect your spine, moving properly to do everyday tasks. Physical therapists teach you how to do this.
- Finally, with the right physical therapy, you can eliminate or reduce your dependency on medication.
While in some cases, surgery is absolutely needed, the vast majority of people just need physical therapy to get rid of their low back pain and start an active, healthy lifestyle. If you are concerned about your back pain, give us a call to schedule a time to speak with one of our therapists. If you know someone who is suffering, forward this article to him or her. It’s time to ditch the pills and get back to an active, pain free, flexible and strong spine. Call us today!
Click here to learn more about our FREE Back Pain Workshop